By Anietie Ekong
The declaration by Senator Godswill Akpabio of his intention to vie for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2023 election had brought to an end speculations on whether he would throw his hat into the ring of the already crowded Presidential race or not. The declaration event which took place at the Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium, Akwa Ibom State on May 4, witnessed a turn out unprecedented in political rallies in the country. He followed that up with his resignation from the Federal Executive Council as the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. A group of Northern youths had earlier purchased the nomination form for him which he has filled and returned.
On the day of the declaration, the Stadium was filled to capacity with the covered terraces and field area filled up with enthusiastic supporters who had come from far and wide to witness the making of history. The overflow of those who couldn’t gain access into the stadium was massive. One supporter quipped: “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” From Kano to Adamawa, from Ibadan to Jos, from Calabar to Akure support groups chartered flights into Uyo to witness the declaration. Nobody wanted to be left out as a witness to the making of history.
As he made his way into the stadium, the already charged atmosphere and supporters went hysterical. One concerned supporter thought aloud how Senator Akpabio would make it in such a crowded Presidential race. But Akpabio is not a stranger to political battles with strong reliance on the will of God. In 2006, little known Chief Godswill Akpabio whose only pedigree was having served as a Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State defeated about 57 others (among whom were political heavyweights in the country) to emerge the Governorship candidate of his party and went on to triumph in the governorship election. His campaign has always been anchored on the unselfish slogan: “Let God’s will be done.” He went on to serve for two terms as Governor and in another unprecedented manner in 2015 was made the Senate Minority Leader being only a first term Senator.
The appointment of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs on August 20, 2019 was greeted with great enthusiasm by people across the Niger Delta region. President Muhammadu Buhari was widely hailed for the appointment as putting a square peg in a square hole.
The excitement of the people was not misplaced. As Governor of Akwa Ibom State for eight years (2007 – 2015) Chief Godswill Akpabio unleashed a development model never experienced in Nigeria which the people aptly termed “Uncommon Transformation.” The state within the period witnessed unprecedented infrastructural renaissance that a once largely pedestrian and civil service State, became a destination of choice among Nigerians.
This was possible because of the impeccable infrastructural facilities that Chief Akpabio built in the State. The roads he built as Governor across the state, over 14 years ago have stood the test of times as there are no potholes in them. The airport he built has made access to the state as a destination, possible.
The stadium he built, fittingly named after him as Godswill Akpabio International Stadium was the only FIFA approved stadium in Nigeria until lately when the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja was refurbished by Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and added to the list of FIFA approved stadium. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has approved the Stadium to host the 2022 CAF Confederation Cup final scheduled for Sunday, May 20.
The former Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole in May 2016, was so amazed at Ibom Specialist Hospital built by Chief Godswill Akpabio when he embarked on a tour of the hospital that he declared that Nigerians had no reason to embark on medical tourism abroad with the facilities he saw at the hospital which he described as world-class. One can go on and on.
It was because of the footprints that Senator Akpabio had left on the sands of Akwa Ibom State as Governor that there was a general consensus that his appointment as Minister was widely received as well deserved and the people commended President Buhari for his choice to man the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
As supervising Minister of the Niger Delta Development Commission he changed development paradigm of the Commission. Within two years in an unprecedented manner the President had commissioned three life-changing projects in the Niger Delta region under the supervision of Senator Akpabio. First was the NDDC headquarters complex which had been abandoned for 25 years. Presently the Commission operates from its own headquarters building. The President also commissioned the Police Barracks, Special Protection Unit, Base 6 at Omagwa in Ikwere Local Government Area of Rivers State. The project had been abandoned for 10 years. Next was the commissioning of the abandoned 1050 bed hostel project at the University of Uyo. This project is being replicated in all the nine States of the Niger Delta region. These are projects nobody gave any chance of being resuscitated.
It is this same energy that people believe Senator Akpabio will apply to change the fortunes of Nigeria if given the opportunity to serve as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His supporters and critics are unanimous that Senator Akpabio has the capacity to turn around the economic and political fortunes of Nigeria if he is elected as the President.
At the declaration event Senator Akpabio paid glowing tributes to President Muhammadu Buhari for his great transformational effort. He has identified three key areas that demand urgent attention in his new vision for Nigeria. “I have come with these key items on my agenda: to secure lives and properties; to make unity the touchstone of our nationhood; and to invigorate our economy, prosper our citizenry and promote democracy,” he said in his declaration speech.
As a State Governor, Chief Akpabio worked consciously to promote national unity among Nigerians. He appointed his aide-de-camp from Bauchi State, his Chief Security Officer from Kano State, his Orderly from Kaduna State and a Senior Adviser from Ondo State. The State of origin of these Nigerians didn’t matter to him. What mattered to him was their competencies. As he sponsored Christians to go on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, he extended the same gesture to Muslims. He also extended grants to Christians and Muslims to alleviate their economic condition and received wide acclaim for these efforts.
As a young boy barely 10 years old, Senator Akpabio often recounts how he travelled by train from Aba, unaccompanied at an era where there was no mobile phone, to attend an interview at the Nigerian Military School, Zaria and stayed in Zaria for about three weeks. His parents were not worried that the little boy could be kidnapped or killed. Senator Akpabio desires a country that insecurity would be a thing of the past. As President he would work hard to eradicate security challenges plaguing the country.
While he served as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, he worked with the private sector to transform the economy of the State, the most ambitious of the projects being the establishment of the gas processing plant in Uquo, Esit Eket Local Government Area and the completion of the Ibom Power Plant. The economic transformation he unleashed in Akwa Ibom bears him out as one who can transform the economy of Nigeria if given the opportunity.
Ekong is a media aide to Senator Godswill Akpabio